Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bell Labs 1926-2008

Along with the Star Trek Experience, another era has ended. Bell Labs, which produced six Nobel Prizes and inventions like the transistor and the hydrogen maser, has been closed by parent company Alcatel-Lucent. In 1965, while tuning a microwave antenna, Bell Researchers Arnold Penzias and Robert Wilson accidentally discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background. The handful of researchers left will be reassigned to other projects.

"Increasingly, long-term research is being carried out in universities and national laboratories with federal grants," said an APS spokesman. This wishful thinking depends on shrinking college and federal budgets. Scientists are then reduced to wilfare cases, relying on the fickle spigot of government. To get grants one must fill out piles of paperwork. Only a few of the applicants will see a dime. Grants tend to favour those doing "safe" research. Scientists are forced to follow fashionable ideas like "dark energy."

Galileo, Newton and Einstein made their discoveries without national labs or government grants. Galileo did not finish the equivalent of a bachelor's degree, held a low-level teaching postion and was presecuted by mainstream science. Newton's greatest breakthroughs were made when plague exiled him from Cambridge. Einstein's first breakthroughs arrived while he worked as a patent clerk. To make fundamental advances in physics, all one really needs is a good pencil.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Tony Smith said...

Louise, as you say "... To make fundamental advances in physics, all one really needs is a good pencil ...",
or nowadays maybe a computer word processor keyboard.

Maybe you could use a keyboard to take advantage of what Carl Brannen noted in a 3 September 2008 entry on his blog: "... FQXi ... is running an essay contest, with the subject of the Nature of Time ... You have until December 1, 2008 to submit an essay ...".

How about you submitting something like "c-time" in which you explain how "t" in a simple equation, along with a varying "c", can explain a lot about astrophysical observations?

FQXi seems to allow comments to be attached to each entry, and for the author to reply to those comments (this has already taken place with respect to Carl's entry), so maybe such a submission could be a forum where your critics would be forced to deal with facts instead of making irrelevant ad hominem personal attacks.

Tony Smith

5:42 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Great hearing from you and grerat idea, Tony. I've already made note of the FQXi competition. I may also show how to explains both the cosmological and thermodynamic arrows of time.

9:56 PM  

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